Australia’s internet is at risk of collapse at peak hour as the public’s love of internet streaming outpaces the broadband network’s capacity to handle the traffic, an expert has warned.
“The network could effectively stop between 5pm to 9pm,” Mark Gregory, electronic and telecommunications associate professor at RMIT University, told The New Daily.
He said the unprecedented uptake of high definition (HD) online streaming services, such as Netflix, put Australia in danger of a network collapse during peak time despite the nation’s biggest-ever $49 billion infrastructure spend on the national broadband network (NBN).
New figures last week from the Australian Bureau of Statistics demonstrated our growing obsession with binge watching, revealing Australians download one million terabytes of data between March and June this year.
Total downloads in Australia between June 2016 and June 2017 grew by a massive 43 per cent to just shy of three million terabytes.
This all comes as the total number of internet users grew by only 2.1 per cent, suggesting demand will continue to surge regardless of population growth.
According to a Nielsen study from earlier this year the number of Netflix users in Australia grew by 48 per cent between December 2015 and December 2016, while a Roy Morgan report released in 2015 showed Netflix’s subscriber audience had reached 5.75 million.
However, Netflix declined to reveal to The New Daily their Australian watchers, confirming only that peak usage time in Australia was 8pm.
People are already aware of slow network speeds at peak times, particularly after work as many Australians sit down for a TV binge.
The 2015 Roy Morgan report showed 35 per cent of Netflix watchers in Australia spent three to seven hours a week on the service, but 9 per cent spent 15 hours or more watching weekly.
Akamai’s ‘State of the Internet’ report released recently found Australia’s average internet speeds continued to hang in limbo with countries such as Kenya and Russia, and far behind our nearest neighbour New Zealand.
New Zealand’s own version of the NBN promises to deliver to most citizens speeds of up to 100 megabits (Mbps) download a second, while 80 per cent of Australians signed up to the NBN receive a maximum of up to 25Mbps.
Only 13 per cent have signed up for the much faster and more expensive high-end 100Mbps, with many failing to receive even that.
But NBN Co, the government organisation responsible for building and operating the NBN, rejected claims their network is failing to perform.
An NBN spokesperson said internet retailers were responsible for slower connections, which vary due to how much capacity retailers are buying.
“Retailers need to buy enough CVC – or capacity – for their end-users,” the spokesperson said.
“The end-user experience on the NBN is primarily dictated by how much capacity retailers are making available to end-users.”
RMIT Professor Mark Gregory told The New Daily that tight-fisted retailers and outdated ways of charging to use networks are responsible for slow service.
“You end up with a situation where there’s not enough capacity being bought,” he said.
Current NBN plans to utilise existing copper wiring place hard limits on download speeds and with more users joining the network speeds may continue to fall.
“Netflix is trying to say to customers that we can provide you with 4K,” Professor Gregory said.
“But if they were to transmit at 50-70 megabits a second required for 4K, our network could collapse.”
But 4K will be old news by the time 8K streaming comes online for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
An 8K video is almost three times bigger in file size than current 4K videos, which themselves clock in at 6000 gigabytes for 100 minutes.
Depending on the levels of compression the 130 hours of 8K footage planned for the Tokyo Olympics could come in at 225 GB per 100 minutes, or 25,600 gigabytes for the total 8K experience.
But NBN Co told The New Daily they welcomed services which encourage people to use the internet more.